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Honeymoon in Lithuania

Lithuania - multinational, multilingual, and multicultural

Lithuania is a new and active member of the European Union (since May 1, 2004) and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (since March 29, 2004). Wedged at the dividing line of Western and Eastern civilizations, the Baltic country of Lithuania has battled dramatically for its independence and survival.

The capital Vilnius has always been a multinational, multilingual, and multicultural European city. Music, theatre, sport and the arts are highlights of the country.

Music

Music is a truly universal language. The first opera performances in Lithuania were staged in early 17th century, just 20 years after the genre was born. 18th century saw the emergence of manor theatres, ballet. The Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatreperformed its first opera premiere on the eve of 1923. Presently, the theatre stages from five to eight new theatre and ballet pieces every year. Simultaneously, the most notable works from the classical "golden fund" are preserved. Finest opera singers, masterful dancers, forceful direction and original stage design create truly memorable performances.

Spring marathon of musical festivals is kicked off by an elite Vilnius Festival with the most prominent classical music ensembles and jazz masters from all over the world participating each year. The venue then passes the baton to Pažaislis Festival of Classical and Sacred Music. Pažaislis Monastery, a genuine masterpiece of Baroque architecture in Lithuania, features central concerts of the festival; other performances are commonly held in churches and abbeys. The musical waves of the Christopher Summer Festival floods Vilnius and its environs with summer concerts. The festival skilfully blends the classical masters with avant-garde escapades, the cycles of piano and organ music with guitar performances. Altogether, festivals offer over 100 unique performances every year.

Expect fireworks of jam sessions at an international Kaunas Jazz Festival, Blues Nights on the Lukstas Lake, Vilnius and Klaipeda jazz festivals. Excellent local jazz performers always make a fantastic discovery for those, who are unaware of the country's jazz traditions. In the memory of the world-famous performer, jazz lovers in Lithuania erected a monument to Frank Zappa.

At least ten international folklore festivals are held during the summer months. Their performances attract crowds of spectators, dozens of ethnic congregations, hundreds of folk art exhibitions. Every four years, The Festival of Song (and Dance) gathers Lithuanians from all over the world into a colossal nationwide event of unsurpassed exuberance. The song festivals of the three Baltic countries are jointly included on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Theatre

The first drama play in Lithuania was performed in 1570, at the theatre of the Palace of the Rulers. Theatre company of the Vilnius University (Jesuits’ College at that time) was born in the same year. Currently, Lithuania has 13 national theatres (8 drama theatres, 2 puppet-shows, 3 musical theatres) and 10 independent theatres and stage art formations. Lithuanian artistic directors are well-known and highly respected in the world. Eimuntas Nekrošius, a master of philosophical and visual expression, has boasted a title of the best European artistic director for several years already: all theatre lovers dream of seeing his Hamlet, Macbeth, Othello by William Shakespeare, or his latest work, The Song of Songs. At least as famous is Oskaras Koršunovas, an artistic director of his own avant-garde theatre. In a relatively short time, his plays collected awards at the most prestigious theatre festivals all around the world; his theatre company is a permanent participant of the Avignon Theatre Festival. Another great master of the stage is Rimas Tuminas, an artistic director of The Small Theatre of Vilnius, whose performances are admired by audiences of many countries. Intriguing are plays directed by Jonas Vaitkus and Gytis Padegimas. Apart from these, country's theatres are alive with many talented directors and actors, who will sure make your day with meaningful or joyful performances. Lively and colourful is the movement of amateur theatres – there are nearly 1,500 amateur theatre companies in the country.

Arts

Mikalojus Konstantinas Ciurlionis (1875–1911), undoubtedly the most famous Lithuanian painter, was also a gifted composer. His paintings, extremely hard to categorize under any single trend of art, are reputedly the most significant contribution of Lithuanian art to the global culture. His name was cited along with W. Kandinsky, E. Munch, O. Redon, F. Kupka and other most prominent modernists of the time. Kaunas is home to the museum-gallery dedicated to this artist.

Visiting exhibitions and galleries, you will be surprised how versatile a contemporary Lithuanian art is. Whether a master of figurative painting or colourist virtuoso, whether a minimalist philosopher or a poet of abstract stroke, everyone is distinct and unique. At one exhibition, you may suddenly find yourself participating in an avant-garde project, while another gallery may turn you into a ceramicist making yourself a commemorative medal. Works of figurative painter Augustinas Savickas, the patriarch of the contemporary Lithuanian art and a representative of figure painting, can be viewed at his own gallery in Vilnius; an extensive collection of the best painters of the country is presented at Vilnius ir Vilnieciiai Gallery owned by Stasys Juškus. Most remarkable sculptors include Aloyzas Smilingis, Regimantas Midvikis, and Arunas Sakalauskas. Tapestry by Feliksas Jakubauskas would adorn any textile exhibition anywhere in the world.

Interesting and rich are European Park (featuring over 100 works by world-renowned sculptors) and Vilnoja Sculpture Park (featuring works by artists from 40 countries) lying just outside Vilnius as well as open-air expositions in Klaipeda, Panevežys, Ventes Ragas, Juodkrante, etc.

There are over 200 art galleries and exhibition halls in the country. The Lithuanian Artists’ Association unites over 1500 professional artists.

Museums

Lithuanians, whose motherland had experienced such a dramatic history, protect and honour historical legacy and cultural heritage of their country. The National Museum of Lithuania, the oldest in the country, holds the largest repository of cultural heritage in the country. The Old Arsenal located nearby presents the prehistory of the Balts and origins of Lithuanian nation. An open-air Folk Museum in Rumšišk?s represents four major ethnographic regions of the country.

The most valuable art collections are held in the Lithuanian Art Museum in the Chodkevicius (Chodkiewicz) and Radvila Palaces, K.Varnelis Home-museum, the Museum of Arts and Crafts in Vilnius, M.K.Ciurlionis National Art Museum, M.Žilinskas Picture Gallery in Kaunas, Klaipeda Picture Gallery.

Horrible repressions of Soviet period and World War II are reflected in the Museum of Genocide Victims, opened in the premises of former KGB headquarters, or the Vilna Gaon Jewish State Museum in Vilnius. Grutas Park, an "exile camp" just outside Druskininkai, now features monuments of the Soviet leaders brought here from all over the country. Also visit the former missile-launching grounds of the Soviet Army found in the Žemaitija National Park.

Sport

Basketball is one of the most popular sports in our country. For millions of people all over the world, it was precisely basketball that put the name of Lithuania on the map together with its star players such as Arvydas Sabonis, Šarunas Jasikevicius, Arvydas Macijauskas, Žydrunas Ilgauskas, coaches, referees and organizers. In a relatively short history of Lithuanian basketball (the first basketball game took place in 1922), the men's national team won three Olympic bronze medals, three times was the European champion, and once earned European silver. The Lithuanian national women’s team also took gold and silver in European championships. Youth and junior basketball teams of Lithuania also are recent champions of Europe. Discus thrower Virgilijus Alekna won two Olympic Games; pentathlon athlete Andrejus Zadneprovskis is an Olympic silver medallist, while his teammate Edvinas Krungolcas won three European gold medals. The world's strongest man also lives in Lithuania: Žydrunas Savickas is the reigning champion and three-time winner of the Arnold Strongman title. Jurgis Kairys, the first man to fly in the sky to the music, is the world leader in aerobatics. Žuvedra, the dance sport formation of unrivalled grace and expression, is a four-time world champion and five-time European champion.

Entertainment

Food is one of the true joys of life. The largest cities feature many of the world's finest cuisines. Whether you wish to have a quick snack or eat out in style, it is always for you to choose: beer pubs deep down in the basement or out in the sunshine, cafes frequented by bohemia, youngsters or elegant public; luxurious restaurants decorated in a retro style or boasting modern interiors; a country-style seklycia offering traditional food or an exotic dining establishment reminding us of the Soviet-era canteens. Smaller villages may lack some of the sophistication but they will definitely offer at least some European and national dishes. As far as Lithuanian beers are concerned, selected Lithuanian brews consistently win gold medals in the world beer competitions.

The night belongs to fun hunters. Choose live jazz or rock bands, vocal or instrumental performances, guitar or violin tunes – it is absolutely your call! Surrender yourself to the groovy beat of Latino or local folk music. It is the discos where the real passion and dancing spree goes, where the best western DJs are frequent guests. Night bars and clubs feature exciting night shows and peculiar striptease performances. Visit at least one casino and find out for real whether Lithuania is the gambler's paradise. After all, the country lies in the very heart of Europe.

Source: www.travel.lt

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